Mid-Autumn Festival, Zhongqiu Jie (中秋节) in Chinese, is also called the Moon Festival. It is the second most important festival in China after Chinese New Year. It is celebrated by many other Asian countries as well, such as Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines. This year the date of Mid-Autumn Festival is September 10th.
In China, Mid-Autumn Festival is a celebration of the rice harvest and many fruits. Ceremonies are held both to give thanks for the harvest and to encourage the harvest-giving light to return again in the coming year. It is also a reunion time for families, a little like Thanksgiving. Chinese people celebrate it by gathering for dinners, worshiping the moon, lighting paper lanterns, eating mooncakes, etc.
Mooncakes are the must-eat Mid-Autumn food in China. They are a traditional Chinese pastry. Chinese people see the roundness of mooncakes as a symbol of reunion and happiness.
There are many legends about Mid-Autumn Festival. The most popular stories are about Chang’e and the Jade Rabbit. The origin of the Mid-Autumn Festival is associated with the popular legend of Chang’e (嫦娥), the goddess of the moon…
In Chinese history, many poems have been written about the moon. Here are the two I like the most. They not only vividly described the beauty of the moon, but are also philosophical explorations and ponderings on nature and life.
First one is written by SuShi, one of the most famous poet in ancient China, Song Dynasty.
How long will the full moon appear?
How long will the full moon appear?
Wine cup in hand, I ask the sky.
I do not know what time of the year
’Twould be tonight in the palace on high.
Riding the wind, there I would fly,
Yet I’m afraid the crystalline palace would be
Too high and cold for me.
I rise and dance, with my shadow I play.
On high as on earth, would it be as gay?
The moon goes round the mansions red
Through gauze-draped window soft to shed
Her light upon the sleepless bed.
Why then when people part, is the oft full and bright?
Men have sorrow and joy; they part or meet again;
The moon is bright or dim and she may wax or wane.
There has been nothing perfect since the olden days.
So let us wish that man
Will live long as he can!
Though miles apart, we’ll share the beauty she displays.
The second one, A Moonlit Night on the Spring River, was written by 张若虚 (Zhang Ruo Xu) in the Tang Dynasty. It superbly illustrates an amazingly beautiful night scene under the full moon, and many music pieces and dances are based on this outstanding poem.
A Moonlit Night on the Spring River
In spring the river rises as high as the sea,
And with the river’s rise the moon uprises bright.
She follows the rolling waves for ten thousand li,
And where the river flows, there overflows her light.
The river winds around the fragrant islet(小岛) where
The blooming flowers in her light all look like snow.
You cannot tell her beams from hoar frost in the air,
Nor from white sand upon Farewell Beach below.
No dust has stained the water blending with the skies;
A lonely wheellike moon shines brilliant far and wide.
Who by the riverside first saw the moon arise?
When did the moon first see a man by riverside?
Ah, generations have come and past away;
From year to year the moons look alike, old and new.
We do not know tonight for whom she sheds her ray,
But hear the river say to its water adieu.
Away, away is sailing a single cloud white;
On Farewell Beach pine away maples green.
Where is the wanderer sailing his boat tonight?
Who, pining away, on the moonlit rails would learn?
Alas! The moon is lingering over the tower;
It should have seen the dressing table of the fair.
She rolls the curtain up and light comes in her bower;
She washes but can’t wash away the moonbeams there.
She sees the moon, but her beloved is out of sight;
She’d follow it to shine on her beloved one’s face.
But message-bearing swans can’t fly out of moonlight,
Nor can letter-sending fish leap out of their place.
Last night he dreamed that falling flowers would not stay.
Alas! He can’t go home, although half spring has gone.
The running water bearing spring will pass away;
The moon declining over the pool will sink anon.
The moon declining sinks into a heavy mist;
It’s a long way between southern rivers and eastern seas.
How many can go home by moonlight who are missed?
The sinking moon sheds yearning o’er riverside trees.